It is not easy to be a believer today. Our Faith, indeed the idea of faith itself, is under constant attack like never before. We are told that any faith, especially the Catholic Faith, ought to be a private matter, kept at home and done in private, like knitting. Whereas once the precious gift sex was spoken of in private and in whispers but now is broadcast on every wavelength so now faith that was once such a major part of public life is under pressure to abandon the public sphere and retreat behind closed doors and pulled curtains and dare I say it to retreat even to the bedroom where not so long ago it was told it was not wanted. The Son of Man has still no place to lay His head.
In that context in today’s Gospel we hear the disciples asking the Lord not for faith but that He literally “Add faith to us.” They ask Christ for an addition to their faith and to be strengthened in faith. Faith partly depends on us and partly is the gift of the divine grace. We respond to God’s grace by accepting what has been revealed to us through His Son and His Church, that we have received from our parents, priests and teachers, and living it day to day. The beginning of faith depends on us and our maintaining confidence and faith in God with all our power, through prayer and conversion of life. Faith is a seed that we nurture and a flame that we feed.
The confirmation and strength necessary for this comes from Divine grace. For that reason, since all things are possible with God, the Lord says that all things are possible for him who believes. The power that comes to us through faith is of God, it is a gift and a work of the Holy Spirit. Knowing this, blessed Paul also says in the first epistle to the Corinthians, “For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit, and to another faith in the same Spirit.” You see that he has placed faith also in the catalogue of spiritual graces. The disciples requested that they might receive this from the Saviour, contributing also what was of themselves. Our Lord granted it to them after His death and Resurrection by the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them at Pentecost. Before the resurrection, their faith was so feeble that they were liable even to the charge of being of “little faith” but afterwards, thought they remained weak and sinful men, they were made strong enough to proclaim Christ even at the cost of their lives.
The mustard seed is about the size of those little black seeds you see on some kinds of bread. It has a much stronger taste, though, out of all proportion to its size. To put it in more familiar terms: just as the electrical wires in your house are thin yet carry so much power likewise our faith seems small and thin but when it is empowered by the Holy Spirit it can do wonders. We are not only asked that we believe that God exists. That is mere natural faith and it cannot save, it cannot get us to Heaven. We are asked to believe that Jesus is who He says He is, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity made fully human for us, that He is the one and only Saviour of mankind and that He established His Church. All of this is encapsulated in the Creed we will recite in a few moments. You should read it in your spare time, even better, pray it!
How are we to nurture the seed of faith, to fan into a flame the gift that God has given us? First through heartfelt prayer, then through charity to our neighbour but also through study and learning either by reading or by listening. We have immense resources available to us today that our ancestors never had yet never has there been such ignorance of the Faith among believers. A Christian who does not know what Christ and His Church teaches and why is like a soldier who goes into battle with no bullets in his rifle. He can shout at the enemy but not much else.
It is because of all that Christ has done for us and the infinite love that He pours out upon us that we are to respond not just as servants, still less as slaves, but as friends and lovers, giving our all in return for His all. We are soldiers on a battlefield and our captain Christ has won the day, it is for us to advance though still under fire from our defeated enemy, and to take souls for Christ. Even when we have given our all we will not have begun to even approach what He has done for us. We can never equal His love for us or His generosity but we can at least do our best. The joy and peace, glory and beauty of Heaven lie ahead of us where we can take our eternal ease but in the mean time we must fight for Christ and take the battle not only into our homes but onto the streets, into our shops and businesses, our jobs and activities and win as many souls for Christ as we can. He has given us the weapons of the virtues, empowered us with His Holy Spirit and it is He who leads us. With faith in Him we cannot lose.